/ Technology

How does new Ofcom boss say she’ll improve services for you?

Today we hosted the first public speech by Ofcom’s new Chief Executive Sharon White as she set out how she plans to make it easier for you to switch to a better deal and get the services you’ve been promised.

Under Ofcom’s new proposalsyou’ll be able leave your broadband contracts without penalty if you don’t get what is promised, and providers will need to give better information on the broadband speeds you’ll realistically get.

We know unreliable broadband speeds drive you crazy, so it’s great see the regulator taking action.

Sharon was joined on the panel by Which? Executive Director Richard Lloyd, TalkTalk’s Chairman, Sir Charles Dunstone, and Openreach Chief Executive of Openreach, Joe Garner, before an audience of consumers, Which? supporters and industry people.

So, how else does Ofcom plan to improve things for you?

Simpler switching and better information

The panel was quizzed on issues including why you have to pay to unlock your mobile handset and what Ofcom is going to do about making bills clearer, so you know what you are paying for. Sharon White outlined four key ways the industry needs to improve:

  • Easier switching: making it simpler to switch, including being able to cancel without unfair penalties and coordination between providers for a smooth transfer
  • Better information: Making available clear and accurate information in advertising and at point of sale, so you can genuinely compare offers and make effective choices
  • Improved contract terms: Clear and fair terms with no hidden charges or lock-ins
  • Better complaints handling: Setting out simple steps when you wish to complain or when things go wrong. It means doing everything possible to avoid a dispute in the first place, including the chance for you to ‘walk away’ when services fall short. It also means clear signposting of alternative dispute resolution services – which are free to use.

So what’s our verdict?

Which? Executive Director Richard LloydWe’ve been calling for changes to make it easier to switch telecoms providers, so we’re pleased to see it’s a priority for Ofcom. We also look forward to swift action to tackle other problems facing customers, including competition in the communications market.

We think this is an encouraging start by the new chief executive, particularly at a time when Ofcom faces big challenges.

We look forward to working with her to ensure consumers have more power to drive competition and growth among the best businesses, while protecting those who are vulnerable.

What do you think of the changes that Ofcom is planning?

Comments
F Wright says:
11 June 2015

That’s GREAT news for the consumer. It’s about time we had an organization to voice what the people want and indeed deserve!!!!!!!!

Lynn Marsden says:
11 June 2015

It will only be great if things really change which I doubt.

Granville Powell says:
11 June 2015

I agree 150%

Well done Which. If suppliers in other business sectors took payment for a service or product that fell short of what was delivered the customer would be able to take action.

J Strutt says:
11 June 2015

This is one step but more needs to be done. Openreach – part of BT have been working in my area to improve broadband speeds but they keep changing the date the work will be done by. We’re not talking a week or two but months! Openreach are holding BT and therefore other companies to ransom. It’s a joke. if you live in a big town or city then you’re laughing but anywhere considered small or remote doesn’t stand a chance.

For me the most important thing is to have a written commitment when a company is trying to sell broadband .
The best I can get here in Cumbria is about 1.25 MEG , which is way too slow for most people.
BT have rung me twice saying that if I switch to them they can give me 3.5 MEG.
So then I tell them ‘no you can’t’ and then we start a can-can’t-can-can’t conversation. I know this because neighbors are with BT and they are even slower than me. I’m with Zen.
So both times I have asked BT to put it in writing to be told it’s a telephone offer.

No! We live in London and we’re not laughing! BT Infinity is at our local exchange – less than a mile away but it isn’t considered cost effective to bring the fibre optic cable to our ‘green box’ and then into our homes. Virgin supplies most of street with fibre optic so BT has obviously decided to ignore the rest of us who have been promised faster and ‘whole house’ broadband for years! Even the sales team are resigned to the complaints of once-patient customers and just offer a reduction on line rental or tv/broadband package, What way is that to do business.

Lynn Marsden says:
11 June 2015

I left BT many years ago after they lied about my telephone line and bills and would never consider them again. My Son tried to connect with them back in January, got a bad service and rapidly cancelled and moved to Sky who did a good job and so far supply his needs well.

Lynn Marsden says:
11 June 2015

I have learnt the hard way to never ever believe what BT say and would never use them again and tell others not too, where possible.

Lynn Marsden says:
11 June 2015

Bt are sadly notorious for trying to get out of any of their offers whether written, advertised on television or over the telephone, as my Son found out in January 2015.

Granville Powell says:
11 June 2015

This is the same in our village as well in South Norfolk: people JUST TELL LIES and have no shame in doing it. Written down speeds should be in the contract and then we can SUE if it fails to happen..its the only way to beat liars!!!

Lynn Marsden says:
12 June 2015

Most of us cannot afford to sue so that would be a pointless idea to promote.

Good news and a step in the right direction.

Well done to Richard Lloyd and the Team at WHICH thank you and to Sharon White for Ofcom finally listening to our cries and stopping these frankly fraudsters – up to 7 Mbs – never ever where I live just outside London, more like 0.35 where can’t even download emails on BT !!!!!

We have BT-Broadband in Kent…very unhappy with the poor service.
Also they, BT, have started ‘DOUBLE Billing’.
They are charging us Twice for the same service on their invoices.
Their Customer services are useless at sorting this problem out.
BT now owe us many months of refunds.
Has anyone else had these problems?

Lynn Marsden says:
11 June 2015

They tried the double billing stint out on my Son, when he was a new customer and he cancelled the business with them and gave it to Sky instead.

Stew says:
11 June 2015

Great result! Finally someone has woken up to the fact that there is a lot more to transparency and truth!!

Vishal says:
11 June 2015

I have Virgin Broadband in Bexleyheath. It is meant to be 156MB which I pay for, but I do not get even 70MB. We need to be able to cancel our contract without any charge if we do not get the service we pay for. This should be seen as breach of contract!

Granville Powell says:
11 June 2015

YES: 70 MB and we can not even get 0.5Mbps on a regular basis with TalkTalk…I am in tears

Mick says:
11 June 2015

I live rural and speed and continuity is the bain of my life.
I have been with Plusnet for about 2 year and there is no improvement on the speed or continuity that I received from the previous provider.
I get the clear impression that I am in an area where technically there are problems maintaining a supply.
It would be some consolation of a reduction of subscription was on offer cor rubbish service but approaches to plusnet are glibly rebuffed.
I am not changing providers as I’m convinced it will be same old same old.

Sadly for those living rurally, unless BT (or AN other) upgrade the infrastructure,as you rightly state then it does not matter who supplies the service.

Is the next step for Which and Ofcom to insist on improvement in the countryside that match the cities and to come up with suitable carrots and sticks to incentivise Openreach / Virgin / Others?

Andy Shipley says:
11 June 2015

Again Ofcom have looked at the majority in cities and towns where there maybe alternatives. What Ofcom and the Government should insist upon is that providers first target the hardest to supply and once that is achieved they can roll out quickly and cost effectively to the rest. Without this rural communties will never get a decent service.

Bill Rose says:
11 June 2015

I live in a rural area and have also been with PlusNet for several years. I have no complaints about the unlimited broadband & phone deal I secured with them. The real problem lies with their parent company BT who control the infrastructure and have yet to replace the low grade cables used in my area. Not good enough, when they are ripping off the public for an overpriced line rental charge that (as far as I know) most of us are forced to pay.

Let’s hope Ofcom will tidy up their messy website now.

Bully for you. Now all we need is for you to get the banks to pay us at least 5% interest on our savings accounts and ISAs, especially when they are more than just a few pounds.
Some of us with major savings would like be able to live on the interest we get, or at the very least boost our meagre earnings.

Lynn Marsden says:
11 June 2015

Could not have put it any better!

Granville Powell says:
11 June 2015

I invest all ISAs on Monthly paid interest for as long as is possible with Nationwide 3,4, 5 years, rest in Premium Bonds which give 24 wins this year @£25. USA interest rates going up this year, and we will follow!

Hi Harry and co, thanks for sharing your comments about savings and ISAs, however, it’s slightly off-topic ‘ ➡ ‘ for this conversation. This recent article might be a better place to discuss the issues you’ve raised:

https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/budget-2015-chancellor-george-osborne-response/

A good step forward.
Please add introducing competition to the virginmedia network to your hitlist for future telecomms campaigns. BT-line customers have loads of choice for providers; virginmedia cutomers have just one choice (without significant costs & hassle)

Mike says:
11 June 2015

Great news but lets stop the huge price hikes by BT for an average service with just average speeds, there prices are outrageous

Alan says:
11 June 2015

the 17 storey tower block that i live in still has the old copper wire telecoms cable and NOT fibre optic cable…so….i am only getting below average speeds, and there is NOTHING i can do about it? and yet i am still being charged the usual rates . . . outrageous!!

Dorothee Debuse says:
11 June 2015

I think this is a good start, but it’s tame in comparison to the consumer rights and choice in relation to broadband in other countries. Here BT still seems to have the monopoly on “superfast” broadband, and either you pay their high monthly subscription fee (and, depending on where you live, quite possibly still not get what they promise) or you’re stuck in the IT communication stone age.
In Germany the government is very keen for all households to have access to superfast broadband. As a result, they subsidise it: my father who lives in Germany just paid a one-off fee of 60 Euros for a superfast router that will give him access to broadband with a minimum speed of 30,000 KB per second FOR LIFE. Now there’s something to campaign for!

Terry Wallis says:
11 June 2015

I am with PlusNet and was having problems with the fibre speeds and informed that I could only get up to 40mbps, usually around 36-7mbps, due to old copper wires from green box to fibre connections. I was paying £20 per month for a service that was supposed to give my up to 57mbps. As soon as I complained stating I was changing suppliers the price was dropped to £12.50, which I currently pay.
Does pay to complain and move suppliers when necessary.
I am a habitual changer if I do not get what I’m paying for but the new rules will make it even easier to change as long as the watchdog has teeth and is not all mouth and trousers.

Lynn Marsden says:
11 June 2015

Agree whole heartedly and hope they can get real action but I doubt it!

Martin Ruddick says:
11 June 2015

When a provider states speeds of up to 8Mb/second for only £10/month, does that mean you can pay for just the percentage of that £10 equivalent to the percentage of that 8Mb they are providing? I very much doubt it.

Michelle says:
11 June 2015

We have the most appalling service from BT in rural Devon even though we are only 25 minutes away from Exeter! The problem is that they have a monopoly on the area and do not invest in their infrastructure in their exchanges. I welcome any change to such a dreadful service – and this is not just about speeds but outages which happen on a very regular basis! Shocking.

Graham F says:
11 June 2015

Sorry but not nearly good enough to get excited about, how about paying in proportion to what you actually get that would soon shake up this lame industry. If they advertise 20 mbits download for £20 a month and only supply 2 then you should only pay 10% of the advertised cost.
If you live in a rural community you have little chance of receiving more than 0.5 – 2.0 if you are lucky yet still BT and the like get massive grants to supply rural areas by the Government.

Although it may be easier to cancel and move what is the point if your new supplier only offers the same slow speeds.

Lynn Marsden says:
11 June 2015

Totally agree and hate all there constant lies.

Totally Agree with Graham F, But for this to have any real effect, I would like to suggest, a three pronged attack on this which would also need to be rigorously applied to every other campaign being fought for by members of the public against those in the higher echelons of power, To Endorse Graham’s Point, there is an old saying, you get what you pay for, and what Graham is in effect saying is to only pay for what you get. this approach also needs to have with it the necessary changes to the Law that would in effect hold all Chief Executives to account, regardless of the Industry Involved, they certainly get paid enough, and they are also meant (In theory at least) to have the power that their position suggests to change things, and to quote another old adage “With great power comes great responsibility” and this for me is the argument as to why, any and all company CEO must be held to account, In saying that we all need to be realistic here and look at the “Bigger Picture “and by that I simply mean, we all need to stick together on this and fully support each other to the Max, withholding money from any organisation even if you feel that it is Ethically are Morally the Correct thing to do, we all know a court may not agree with It, so what would need to be done for this to be both workable and effective, is to fully support anyone who agrees to withhold a certain amount of money based purely on paying only for what you have received, 100% Backing for these people is “Essential” as the companies would obviously start sending reminders, threatening court action or stopping the service, and unfortunately you will then go on the books of all 3 of the credit reference agencies,(for 6 years) and either have bailiffs at the door or be taken to court, this is why I said earlier we have to stick together and support those who decide to go down that route, If “Which” could arrange for us to have a vote on all these Issues first,(as well as them backing everyone as well) then we would have a good base from which to start.(assuming it is agreed upon beforehand) the reason I think this will work is, I was in a similar position with Northumbrian Water, regarding the Standing Charge and E.U Law,(Fairness and Proportionality) was my argument due to an example similar to mine in one of the Legal Books I had read, long story short, they said they couldn’t reduce it but due to my “Circumstances” they actually cancelled all of my Standing Charge for the whole of last year, without admitting to anything and maintaining they stood by what the guidelines from Ofwat had laid down. WHY? well there are only really a few possible reasons for this, here they are let me know what you think. (1) they knew I wasn’t going to back down and decided that the whole thing would have a really bad effect on my health and showed real genuine concern for me by coming to that decision without anyone losing face. (2) Apart from 1 they also knew I would be putting it on Facebook/Twitter and all the other social networking sites every day until they took me to court, I am also an ardent and experienced campaigner and as a member of 38%Degrees who now have 3 million members and counting would get the 100.000 Signatures needed to get the matter brought up in Parliament by my local M.P Helen (Goodman) and Finally (3) As I was fighting this Issue on two Fronts the 1st being on the grounds that their Standing Charge was(In My case at least anyway, as I pay more on the Standing Charge than I do for both my water and Sewage usage combined)(3 times as much every month) and this for me is Unfair and Disproportional under E.U.LAW (Possibly Not English Law) but I would also be using (articles 8 and 14 possibly articles 1 and 2 classed as Absolute Rights and simply cannot be broken) (at least in theory) of the 1998 Human Rights Act,(s) and Protocols (Article 1 Protocol 1) and because of the points I was going to raise that you can’t change water supply (most people can’t but there are certain situations when this may not apply) s you could with any other Utility, Water should not be a commodity, It a Fundamental necessity to our very existence, and is classed and can clearly be defined as 1 of the 6 absolutely Essential Homeostatic Needs we all need to survive. and based on those arguments (in E.U Law at Least, It would have needed to go to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. and even though we are a Sovereignty E.U Law Supersedes English Law, and any and all organisation who’s product is used by the public (the water organisations would be classed as a Hybrid so would still come under the jurisdiction of E.U.Law for those purposes) they are all meant to comply with the Human Rights Act (this is now covered by the 2010 Equalities Act which also in effect protects those same rights) and as such they would also have the responsibility of a duty of care under the said Act. so there is a possibility that if they (Northumbrian Water) lost their case, it could in effect (no Pun Intended) Open the Flood Gates, so there you have it. is 1,2, or 3 the reason for their decision? throughout History Companies did not change things for the masses because “They Wanted To” for the vast majority of the time it was a group of people who felt so strongly about something (Like the Suffragettes who went to prison and some sadly even lost their Life)(Emily Davidson) for the cause, I am not for a moment suggesting any of us go that far, but neither would we need to. anyway, to anyone still reading this “Tomb” Thank You for doing so. Regards. Gerry Ward

I was without bb and phone for 6 days and when the line was repaired (yes the line was broken!) there was no refund for loss of service or for the resultant slow speeds. Loads of assurances that it’ll speed up after a few days were just lies. As it never has, and if I call and complain again I get charged a premium rate on the mobile! Although the news is good that I can switch, but what’s the option if BT own it all an refuse to upgrade the infrastructure?!? Maybe time to nationalise them and force the profits to be spent on the network not jollies for fatcats!